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Linking Young Minds Together
     Volume 1 Issue 20 | December 24, 2006 |


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Masterpiece Movies


Shamma M. Raghib

United States, 1958
Restoration Re-Release: Fall 1996
Running Length: 2:08
Campus Classics Rating: 8.5/10
Cast: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore
Director: Alfred Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock was once known as the master of suspense and it is his film 'Vertigo' that created a turning point for most films that follow. 'Vertigo' was first released in 1958 and immediately attained a mixed critic response. The haunting but soulful music played by Bernard Hermann tells the whole story of 'ghostly' attraction and unfathomable fear!

The story starts off with Detective John Ferguson (James Stewart) in the prologue where he develops an acute case of vertigo whenever he climbs a steep flight of stairs or gets more than a few feet above the ground. After leaving the police force because of this condition, John is approached by an old acquaintance, ship-yard magnate Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore) to follow his wife, Madeleine (Kim Novak). Gavin is concerned about Madeleine's health -- she has frequent black-outs and he believes that the spirit of a dead woman is attempting to possess her. As John follows Madeleine, watching her day after day, he falls for her. Eventually, the two meet and discover that the attraction is mutual. But even love is not enough to overcome John's vertigo, and he is unable to save her from a fall from the top of a church bell tower. Madeleine's death causes John to suffer a breakdown, and, during his recovery, a chance encounter on the street brings him face-to-face with a woman, Judy Barton (Novak), who is the splitting image of his dead love! The story grows more disturbing, as Stewart forces this woman to look, and behave, like Madeleine. Apart from these, there are so much more that are creepy, which I'll leave the viewer to discover.

Hitchcock's 'Vertigo' is all in one- a love story, a mystery, and a thriller. It deals with issues of obsession, fear and the fragile nature of romantic love. The music is maybe overdone where Kim Novak spoke for the first time probably after 50 minutes into the film. The haunting music takes over most of the memorable scenes and the colors of green and red play a fair share in this classic movie! The movie's plot is tremendously complex and the biggest peculiarity, at least in my opinion, is that this is not a "standard" Hitchcock production. Unlike Hitchcock's Psycho, Vertigo does not place emphasis on action or suspense. Rather, its focus is the sick, twisted "romance" between the two main characters, played by James Stewart and Kim Novak- and this is a must watch for us third generation kids!



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